Increased complications of chronic erythrocytapheresis compared with manual exchange transfusions in children and adolescents with sickle cell disease

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Children and adolescents with sickle cell disease (SCD) are at high risk of strokes and are frequently treated with red blood cell (RBC) transfusions. The goal is to suppress hemoglobin (Hb) S while minimizing transfusion-induced iron overload. RBCs may be given via simple transfusion, manual exchange transfusion (MET), or erythrocytapheresis (aRBCX). Chronic transfusion practices vary among institutions.


This single-institution, retrospective cohort study compares Hb S control and therapy complication rates between MET and aRBCX in a cohort of children and adolescents with SCD and stroke during a 5-year period from 2008 through 2012. Duration and mode of transfusion therapy, achievement of Hb S suppression goal, iron burden by ferritin levels, and catheter complications were evaluated.


Thirty-seven children were included in analysis. The prevalence of catheter complications was 75% in aRBCX recipients compared with 0% in MET recipients (P < 0.001). There was no significant difference between modalities in achieving Hb S suppression or ferritin goals, but those receiving aRBCX had a greater likelihood of discontinuing chelation therapy. Among aRBCX recipients, adherence to >90% of transfusion appointments was associated with achieving Hb S suppression goals.


aRBCX may have increased complication risks compared with MET for chronic transfusion therapy in SCD. Risks and benefits of aRBCX and MET should be considered when selecting a chronic transfusion modality. Transfusion therapy modalities should be compared in prospective studies for stroke prevention in children with SCD.

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